Best Ways to Monitor Reefer Containers During Long Hauls

reefer container temperatures

When transporting any goods that require temperature-sensitive storage, refrigerated containers, more commonly known as “reefer” containers are used. Though they come in a variety of sizes and equipped with various technologies, they are typically the standard twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) of all shipping containers.

Designed to maintain shipments of cargo in the required temperature range, whether chilled, frozen, or controlled, reefers are vital in the movement of goods such as produce, meats, medications, and dairy products. Deviations in temperature can cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in waste due to spoilage, so maintaining and monitoring the correct temperatures is critical.

In addition to temperature control, reefers also control the atmosphere and humidity within the container. This is especially important when hauling goods such as fruits and vegetables, which continually respire and produce gasses that can lead to cargo damage, early ripening, and aging. This creates spoilage, off-flavor, and decreased value or shortened shelf-life. To prevent this, Reefers are equipped with fresh air ventilation, and humidity controls that release excess water that might have accumulated within the storage container. 

With so many details and controls in place, all of which must be carefully monitored, and in good working order to effectively maintain the storage environment within the Reefer, technology to monitor the status of all of these controls is important. It is also imperative that appropriate steps are taken when loading the cargo so that optimal temperature and ventilation levels are maintained. At the outset, cargo should be evenly distributed, dehumidification controls inspected, ventilation settings verified, cargo pre-cooled as needed, and airflow restrictions checked. Once these steps are taken, monitoring devices can be set to assure that ideas are maintained.

 The best monitoring solutions will allow for easy integration, real-time data, and alerts when temperature deviations are happening, allowing for immediate intervention. More importantly, partnering with a 3PL such as Redwood Logistics can help you keep everything monitored and running smoothly.


Condition and Location Monitoring

Along with real-time temperature data, real-time conditions, and location monitoring are important. Temperature is a vital parameter to measure, but products that are sensitive to light, humidity, vibration, or other factors benefit from access to additional details and monitoring data. With products like pharmaceuticals and vaccine vials, this information is especially valuable. Some companies provide sensors and monitoring that goes beyond the overall reefer container itself and is incorporated into the shipment as well. Monitoring hardware that is small and sensors that are found throughout the shipment gives more accurate and specific data. 

Critical for monitoring data, particularly during long hauls and in the peak heat of summer, is constant connectivity. When shipping across borders, through a variety of channels, and utilizing thickly insulated reefer containers, even the most well-intentioned monitoring systems can run into issues with connectivity. If tracking devices lose contact with the network, real-time data becomes at some point data, or intermittent data, which is obviously not ideal.

There are solutions, however, the best being a hybrid of Internet of Things (IoT) based real-time shipment locations and cold-chain monitoring solutions that allow for the continued capture of data even when the shipment has moved into connectivity dead zones.


Solid Data Analytics

Solid data analytics is another vital component of a good reefer monitoring solution. The data that’s gathered from the sensors and GPS locations needs to be accurate. Faulty sensors can lead to faulty data- and can have negative impacts that can lead to bad reports. Sensors that alert when no issue has actually risen can inadvertently create a “boy who cried wolf” scenario, leading to a lack of intervention when a temperature issue has actually occurred. 

Ideally, to monitor reefer container temperatures effectively, a combination of systems and technologies should be in place. Appropriate cargo packing and preparation processes are key initiatives, and in combination with a good monitoring system that allows for the mitigation of most issues using real-time data, accurate system alerts, and appropriate response times, your reefer container shipments will be safely maintained. Technology solutions that include ease-of-use options like driver apps, mobile alerts, and easily viewed data logs are also available. Taking advantage of the broad range of developments that have led to the perfecting of these solutions allows businesses to find the perfect solution for their cargo monitoring.

Ready to have a team of experts help you manage, monitor, and optimize the way you track and monitor reefer container temperatures? Contact our team here to schedule your free consultation.